Ames Sim­mons

HRC na­tional board mem­ber opens up on gen­der tran­si­tion

GA Voice - - Outspoken -



If you go to the “About Me” sec­tion of Ames Sim­mons’ Face­book page, you’ll find two brief sen­tences: “For 40+ years I iden­ti­fied as woman named Molly. In 2016 I be­came a trans man named Ames.”

The At­lanta na­tive and cor­po­rate at­tor­ney, who serves on the na­tional board of di­rec­tors of the Hu­man Rights Cam­paign and re­cently joined the na­tional steer­ing com­mit­tee for Trans United for Hil­lary, sat down with Ge­or­gia Voice to tell the story be­yond those two sen­tences.

Ames, when did you de­cide that it was time to tran­si­tion?

I would say that I be­came aware of the pos­si­bil­ity of gen­der tran­si­tion al­most a decade ago. There was a lot of be­hind the scenes non-pub­lic work that I was do­ing around just deal­ing with my own in­ter­nal­ized trans­pho­bia and what tran­si­tion might mean in a state like Ge­or­gia as far as my prospects for con­tin­ued em­ploy­ment and what it would mean in­ter­per­son­ally in the in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ships that I was hav­ing, as well as my fam­ily re­la­tion­ships.

It just took a num­ber of years and a very grad­ual ap­proach to it un­til I felt com­fort­able with the more pub­lic steps that I started tak­ing about a year ago. I started more pub­licly iden­ti­fy­ing as gen­derqueer and asked peo­ple so­cially to re­fer to me by the name “Mol,” which I guess I’m now think­ing of as an in­terim name that was sort of a bridge be­tween the iden­tity of Molly and the gen­der iden­tity of Ames.

Hav­ing said that, Ames is a fam­ily name and I hadn’t ever con­sid­ered any other name. It just took me awhile to get com­fort­able with claim­ing that name and that iden­tity.

Was that bridge with us­ing the name Mol more of a bridge for other peo­ple to be­come more com­fort­able with this, or just for you, or both?

I think that it was pri­mar­ily for me, but it’s re­ally dif­fi­cult for me to pull my own process

March 18, 2016

around tran­si­tion out of the con­text of the life that I’m in. So in­tel­lec­tu­ally, I be­lieve that we need to make so­ci­ety safe for trans peo­ple to come to what­ever con­clu­sions are right for that per­son, for it to be safe to de­cide what­ever it is that feels right to them about their gen­der with­out hav­ing to worry so much about what rip­ple ef­fects it’s go­ing to have on their life. But that’s al­most im­pos­si­ble. It’s a huge life de­ci­sion for any per­son to make so there’s no way that you can re­ally en­ter into a de­ci­sion like that with­out tak­ing into ac­count the so­cial en­vi­ron­ment that you’re in.

So while I don’t think that folks ought to stay in an un­healthy gen­der iden­tity for the sake of their fam­ily, for ex­am­ple, that’s right for many peo­ple and that’s what they feel the need to do. I just want to try to be the strong­est ad­vo­cate that I am so that it’s eas­ier, that there’s more ac­cep­tance and knowl­edge of trans­gen­der folks in the world so that it’s not so dif­fi­cult for peo­ple to worry about how their fam­ily’s go­ing to re­ceive them, or their job, or the clerk at Publix.

How has the name change gone? Are peo­ple be­ing re­spect­ful?

So­cially it’s gone re­ally well. Peo­ple have taken to it read­ily and I think part of that is I was very care­ful and thought­ful about lay­ing the foun­da­tion for how I talked about it. The le­gal process is a whole other ball of wax. That’s still in process and will be for a month at least. It’s not a sim­ple un­der­tak­ing in Ge­or­gia be­cause of the state law that we have, but it could be worse. Ames Sim­mons has come a long way since be­com­ing aware of the pos­si­bil­ity of gen­der tran­si­tion a decade ago. (Photo by Pa­trick Saun­ders)

And you de­cided to have the surgery, which you’ve talked about on so­cial me­dia. How has that ex­pe­ri­ence been?

It’s been very pos­i­tive. I had one of the best sur­geons in the coun­try and he did a re­ally good job. The re­cov­ery has gone ex­actly the way that I thought that it would. It’s a process over time. I had to self-fund it but I was pre­pared for that and that was part of the grad­ual process of ac­cu­mu­lat­ing enough sav­ings to be able to fi­nance that on my own.

How do you feel now at this point in your tran­si­tion? What’s your mind­set?

On the whole I find a huge sense of re­lief that I’m not hav­ing to pre­tend to be some­thing that I’m not. That has re­ally made me a much hap­pier and bet­ter ad­justed per­son.

For me per­son­ally, a big part of that sense of re­lief and well-be­ing comes from be­ing on testos­terone. I think that’s an in­te­gral part of what’s helped to make the tran­si­tion come to­gether. I was ner­vous about start­ing testos- terone so I did it at a low dose and with­out telling many peo­ple what I was do­ing be­cause I wanted to be able to stop if at any point I felt un­com­fort­able or that it wasn’t the right thing for me. But with­out ques­tion it was the right thing to do and has helped me to feel so much calmer and just more of a sense of agency about the di­rec­tion that my life is tak­ing.

I don’t know that tran­si­tion will ever “be done” and cer­tainly it wouldn’t be a fair im­pres­sion to leave with read­ers that this is some­thing I rolled out in mid-Jan­uary and now it’s mid-March so over the course of two months I’ve be­come a to­tally dif­fer­ent per­son and ev­ery­thing’s great. I’m still the same per­son and I still have all the same in­ter­per­sonal fac­tors and con­text in my life that I had be­fore, but I’m bet­ter able to deal with it be­cause I’m more able to bring a whole self to that con­text.

—Ames Sim­mons

For an ex­tended ver­sion of this in­ter­view, go to www.the­

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